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Nachiar Kovil or Thirunarayur Nambi Temple in Thirunarayur, a village in the outskirts of Kumbakonam in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu.
Constructed in the Dravidian style of architecture, the temple is glorified in the Divya Prabandha, the early medieval Tamil canon of the Azhwar saints from the 6th to 9th centuries AD. It is one of the 108 divyadesams dedicated to Vishnu, who is worshipped as Srinivasa Perumal and his consort Lakshmi as Nachiyar. Vanjulavalli Thayar or Nachiyar Thayar is given prominence in this temple.
Vishnu was of the view that during Kali Yuga, men would have to listen to women. Hence he decided that he would first set an example and listen to the goddess here. During all festive occasions, the first rights are reserved for Nachiyar, who moves ahead, while Srinivasa follows her. Even the food is first served to Nachiyar and then to Srinivasa.
Being a temple where goddess has prominence, Vishnu is located slightly by the side and goddess has the prominent position inside the sanctum. Vishnu’s Pancha Vyuha forms of Sankarshana, Pradyumna, Anirudha, Purushottama and Vasudeva are found in the sanctum sanctorum.
The temple is believed to have been built by Kochengat Cholan of the late 3rd century AD as per the wishes of the Lord he built this temple after he had built 70 Shiva temples, with later contributions from Medieval Cholas and Vijayanagar kings. A granite wall surrounds the temple, enclosing all its shrines, while it has a five-tiered rajagopuram, the temple’s gateway tower.
The temple is the place where god Vishnu is believed to have initiated Pancha Samskara (religious initiation) to Thirumangai Azhwar. The temple follows Thenkalai mode of worship.
As per legend, the sage Medhavi was doing penance at this place. While taking a bath in the river, he found an image of Chakrathazhwar entwined with Yoga Narasimha. A divine voice asked him to install the image in his hermitage and worship it. The goddess Lakshmi, the consort of Vishnu chose to grow in the hermitage and appeared to the sage in the form of a small girl and requested him to take care of her. Vishnu travelled in search of Lakshmi on his vehicle Garuda, the eagle.
Garuda found the presence of Lakshmi in the hermitage. Vishnu appeared to Medhavi, pleased by the latter’s devotion and asked his daughter to be married to him. The sage happily married Lakshmi to Vishnu and requested him to stay in his place, which Vishnu accepted. There is another local legend that king Kochengat Cholan was once defeated and he was advocated to seek the blessings of Vishnu.
It is said that Garuda was the one to trace Mahalakshmi to this place and led Mahavishnu here. As a mark of gratitude, Lord Vishnu has blessed Garudan to receive equal status at this temple.
Kal Garuda(Stone Garuda), Vishnu’s mount – Garuda, is the most prominent feature of the temple. Sri Garuda Bhagwan graces the devotees from His shrine holding 9 snakes.
As per local legend, the sculptor who sculpted the idol of Garuda got frustrated as the bird flew away each time, a new murthy was prepared. In frustration, he threw a stone at Garuda, who got injured and decided to stay as Kal Garuda. The murthy of Kal Garuda is made of Saligrama and is housed in the shrine outside the main sanctum.
During festive procession during the Tamil months of Margazhi (December–January) and Panguni (April – May), the festive images are carried out in procession in Kal Garudar. While only four people are needed to carry the idol of Garuda out of the shrine, it multiples to 8, 16, 32, 64 and 128 people when the murthy is taken outside the temple.
The weight of the murthy remains the same when carried by 4 people and stays the same when carried outside by 128. Only supernatural force is acting on that murthy when 4 people carry, if we replicate the same murthy somewhere else, 128 people are required to lift. On the way back only 4 people are required to carry the float in the decreasing order 128, 64, 32, 16, 8, 4. The aspect is treated magical as drops of sweat are also observed on the image of Kal Garuda during the six hour long procession.
During the festive occasion, Garuda receives honors from Srinivasa Perumal (presiding deity) in the form of dress and ornaments. Jewels and dress are also presented to Garuda by Ranganatha, the presiding Vishnu form of Srirangam Ranganthaswamy Temple.
Kal Garudan is the Vara Prasadhi at this temple and answers all the wishes of the devotees are fulfilled by praying to Him on nine consecutive Thursdays. He removes the naga doshams, blesses childless couples with progeny, removes obstacle in marriage etc.